Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Wells, John Soelberg (1824 - 1879)

MRCS Dec 21st 1860; FRCS June 13th 1872; MD Edin 1856.

2 December 1879
Ophthalmic surgeon


Born at Norwich, and was partly of German extraction. He graduated MD at Edinburgh in 1856, and then studied ophthalmology for four years under von Graefe in Berlin as one of his assistants, under Helmholtz, and under Donders in Holland. On his return to England in 1860 Bowman appointed him his Clinical Assistant at the Royal Ophthalmic Hospital, Moorfields.

In 1867 Soelberg Wells was elected an additional Assistant Surgeon to the Hospital, and full Surgeon in 1873. In addition he was for a time Ophthalmic Surgeon and Lecturer on Ophthalmology at Middlesex Hospital, and later Professor of Ophthalmology and Ophthalmic Surgeon to King's College Hospital.

He practised at 16 Savile Row, was tall, of fine appearance, courteous, genial, with a warm and loyal heart behind a placid exterior. His excellent training combined with undoubted ability won him a high position as an ophthalmic surgeon. Punctual and zealous both as a worker and teacher, he had a rich and select clientele, and by his writings he familiarized English students and practitioners with the clinical and scientific advances made on the Continent. He was amongst the earliest to inculcate the necessity of systematic testing of the sight for errors of refraction.

He enjoyed good health until after 1875; in 1879 he had been compelled to spend some months in France and Italy. When at Cannes, after ten days' illness during a severe mistral, he died of an obscure liver complaint on Dec 2nd, 1879.

Wells's writings were amongst the best of his day:-
A Treatise on Diseases of the Eye, 8vo, London, 1869; 3rd ed, 1873; 4th American ed, Philadelphia, 1883. It was translated into French and German, and embodied the best teaching and practice of Continental and British practice. It was thus the standard text-book on the subject.
On Long, Short and Weak Sight and their Treatment by the Scientific Use of Spectacles, 8vo, London, 1862; 4th ed, 1873; 3rd ed, Philadelphia, 1869; French translation, 8vo, Paris, 1874. This embodies the teaching of Donders on the subject.
Glaucoma and its Cure by Iridectomy, 8vo, London, 1864.
Clinical lectures and papers on Ocular Paralyses, Glaucoma, etc.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Treacher Collins's History and Traditions of the Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, 1929. Lancet, 1879, ii, 894].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England